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"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Review

Ghost Rider came out back in 2007. (Same year as my personal favorite comic book movie, Spider-Man 3.) It went down an infamous road, no one really likes that film. I remember watching it back when it released on DVD, I thought it was pretty good, but I really don't remember my full first impressions. It wasn't until last year that I re-watched it. To this day, as I stated in my review, I think it's a pretty fun film. Too much hate, and this is coming from a big fan of the character now. Finally, after four months since it originally released in theaters, Spirit of Vengeance is out on DVD. I'll be honest, I had never expected the first film to get a sequel. Critics panned it and people still dislike it to this day. This film got some pretty big hype, Cage even went as far to 'bashing' the original film to get people excited for this. It opened up and....didn't exactly go as planned. Currently it holds a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. I've heard some even say it makes the first film look like The Dark Knight in comparison. I was going in very intrigued, it was going to be interesting to see why everyone dislikes it so much. Well, once again, I'm going to have to go against popular opinion, this film was a blast.

Check out the officical synopsis if you don't know already what it's about:

Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance. Still struggling with his curse as the devil's bounty hunter, Johnny is hiding out in a remote part of Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy from the devil. At first Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider, but it is the only way to protect the boy and possibly rid himself of his curse forever.

This film is one fun ride. It was released in February strangely, probably not to compete with the three big ones in the summer, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises. This doesn't bother referencing past events that much or dwell on things, it's completely fast-paced throughout. No, this is not a 'smart' or 'great' movie like The Dark Knight, but it's fun, perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon. This film improves on a number of things the original had trouble with. The action is more satisfying, (the 'fights' in Ghost Rider were practically non-existent) the CGI (well, some of it anyway) is much better, and the characters are generally better. (Save Ciaran Hinds as the Devil, he was good, but no Peter Fonda.) There are of course some negative aspects about the film, just like with the first Ghost Rider. But Spirit of Vengeance is just a fun watch even with those negative things.

Nicolas Cage should have never been put in the role of Johnny Blaze. He was a primary reason holding back the first film from being really good. He does a rather mixed job here, it's definitely an improvement for sure. As the film goes on, he becomes a likable character with an admittedly funny script. Though he still comes off as rather corny for the most part. He's too old for the part of Johnny Blaze. Still, he was a fun focus, surprisingly. (A highlight is the 'interrogation' between him and one of Carrigan's men at a fighting club, really good stuff there.) Ciaran Hinds replaces Peter Fonda as the Devil. Fonda was one of the best parts in Ghost Rider, so I was disappointed that he would not return in the role. With that said, the new guy as the Devil was a pretty solid antagonist, portraying a sense of fear that Fonda had brought. It's a good thing too, cause the other antagonist, Johnny (coincidence?) Whitworth as Blackout wasn't quite up to standard. His origin should have been deepened, and his relationship with the Rider. In the comics, they share a great hatred toward one another, none of that is really displayed here. There's no romance or female love interest here. (Surprisingly enough.) The main female lead is Nadya. Another pretty surprising thing was that she was actually a well-scripted and all around good character. Eva Mendes in the original film had by far the worst acting performance, she was just awful, almost the definition of bad acting. Wow, her character was really badly played and her script was lousy. At least here Nadya brings some coolness and ends up being not a negative reason holding the film back. Speaking of bad characters, let's talk about one of the main focus, Danny. (Heh heh, Danny. Only Ghost Rider fans will get the reference.) Wow, this kid was just awful. Corny, annoying, I've seen some good kids in films....he is not one of them. Idris Elba (Heimdall from Thor) was definitely a high-point in the film, as many other other reviewers agree.

The CGI as I stated before is an improvement. However, sometimes it's borderline laughable. The scene with Blaze attempting to stop the Rider from coming out while driving his motorcycle was laughably bad. Now this is a high-octane movie, it's constantly on the move. Ghost Rider's first appearance taking out a bunch of Carrigan's men was just awesome. (Though two grenades knocking him out? I mean really?) The final battle between him and Blackout was a very satisfying fight. It could have been a little longer, but is definitely good enough. The soundtrack is similar to the first one, it fits the tone well. (It's pretty hardcore, good stuff.) This being high-octane, the film's focus is getting the story to move, but in the process, some of the logic in the writing is lost. When Moreau came by asking to make a deal with Blaze, the latter didn't bother asking what was so important about Danny. I know I would ask for the details. The ending is pretty unsatisfying and felt rushed, it doesn't feel like a closure. You know, I wish the film had more of a demonic scare factor. The first film did a pretty good job with that, but this film isn't really all that supernatural. A personal favorite scene however was in the ritual with the Devil 'leaving' his body to go into the boy's body, you can see the shadow with the horns and is just pretty awesomely creepy to see on the screen. 

Overall, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance will continue to be disliked by just about everyone. I on the other hand will tell you that it's one 'fiery' blast of a film. It's nothing great really, just a fun, what's that term they use? 'Popcorn' film. However, unlike all the Transformers films, this one has class. So yes, Spirit of Vengeance isn't The Dark Knight or Iron Man, but not every film has to be like those. Some films could just be a fun 'ride,' and that's exactly what Spirit of Vengeance is.


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